Scientists count whales from space
Original story at BBC News• 26 mentions • 4 weeks ago
BBC News 4 weeks ago
It uses very high-resolution satellite pictures and image-processing software to automatically detect the great mammals at or near the ocean surface.A test count, reported in the journal Plos One, was conducted on southern right whales in the Golfo Nuevo on the coast of Argentina.This is a huge improvement on previous attempts at space-borne assessment, and could now revolutionise the way whale populations are estimated. Currently, such work is done through counts conducted from a shore position, from the deck of a ship or from a plane. But these are necessarily narrow in scope. "But as the resolution of the satellites increases and our image analysis improves, we should be able to monitor many more species and in other types of location. "It should be possible to do total population counts and in the future track the trajectory of those populations," he told the Inside Science programme on BBC Radio 4.This is among the most powerful commercial Earth observation platforms in operation today, and can see surface features down to 50cm in size in its panchromatic mode (black and white).The team selected as their test area a 113-sq-km segment of the Golfo Nuevo on the Peninsula Valdes, a location famed for its gatherings of calving southern right whales.